Horses & Recovery

It is wonderful to read of more proof that recovery continues 5 years post stroke. Although I constantly say this, still sadly too many people who advise us think otherwise.

Studies illustrate that stroke survivors who had riding lessons twice a week over a twelve week period showed improvements in walking, balance, grip, gait, strength and cognition. The sheer walking motion of a horse helps to strengthen our core as we sit in the saddle trying to balance upright.

Survivors saw their average scores in all the above attributes increase by 10% over the twelve week period. In comparison, a group of survivors not involved in classes saw their scores fall by an average of 0.5%.

In addition, to this some 56% of survivors who participated in the lessons sustained these benefits for at least 6 months after their lessons had finished.

You may ask how this is so. The researchers believe that the rocking motion of the horse’s back creates a sensory experience that closely resembles the human gait which reminds us of the sensation of balancing and walking.

Research by experts in Sweden and Australia also discovered a therapy of beating hands and feet to music beneficial, although only to about half the degree of riding. People taking part in these rhythm and music therapy sessions improved by 5 percent, and benefits lasted for six months in 43 per cent of them.

The part I particularly enjoyed reading were the words of Study Leader – Professor Michael Nilsson of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, who said that ‘significant improvements are possible even years after stroke’. He stressed also this is so using motivating, comprehensive therapies in stimulating surroundings to increase brain activity and recovery.

The study has been carried out with one hundred and twenty-three Swedish male and female stroke survivors, whose strokes had been between 10 months and 5 years. They were randomly assigned to the different therapies or normal care.

We know that the degree people recover is hugely dependant on their care plan and what message they are sent home with, along with the effort they put in. The words, ‘you will not recover beyond …’  mean people feel lost and desperate, depleted of hope. As many as 4 in 10 leave hospital without any sort of care plan in place. More than a third do not receive the 6 month check- up recommended in patient guidelines.

Getting access to such a simple therapy as riding or music lessons which are both available at centres across the county – could totally change the way stroke care is delivered.

In conclusion, it is refreshing to read of someone else involved in research speaking out saying what we already know and are trying to convince those who still believe otherwise – recovery post stroke does not stop but continues providing we believe and still put in the effort.

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